What Certification Means for People working in Publications: Experience, Knowledge, and Leadership

In this blog, Paul, CMPP™, Scientific Team Lead, talks about professional accreditations and his recent experience of becoming a certified medical publication professional.

Deciding to pursue professional certification for Medical Communications was a little daunting at first, but I came to realise the value that years of experience can bring. Read more to see how I got on…

Image of multiple choice exam being filled in

Many industries have certification or accreditation requirements for their professional employees. They tend to be granted by those with widely-accepted authority within the field, such as professional societies and universities, or by private certificate-granting agencies. Once certification has been achieved, there is normally a requirement to show continual learning and development to maintain it.

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) is a US-based organisation that sets standards for the accreditation of personnel certification and certificate programmes. They highlight an important distinction between ‘Professional Certifications’ and ‘Assessment-Based Certificate Programmes’.

  • Professional Certification: recognises knowledge, skills, competencies, and experience that professionals have already accumulated
  • Assessment-Based Certificate Programme: teaches a specific curricula and assesses that skills and knowledge were learned at the time of the assessment

While there are merits to both types of programme, many accreditation schemes favour the certification model rather than a purely ‘one-off’ assessment-based approach. These schemes involve a process of acquiring skills, knowledge and experience that is not organisation, or institution specific.

There is currently no formal degree or certification course in medical writing and the world of medical communications involves many different writing styles, for different purposes, and for different audiences:

Areas of medical writing

While the knowledge and skills required for writing different types of medical documents may have some inherent similarities, they are fundamentally different. So, many medical writers decide to specialise in a specific type of medical writing. Those of us who specialise in all things medical publications and education are responsible for publishing clinical research which can ultimately affect clinical decision making. We are therefore coming under increasing scrutiny to ensure the highest level of scientific and professional integrity. As a result, it is becoming ever more important for us to demonstrate our commitment to upholding good publications practice. We also need to show how our experience and knowledge of our profession underpins the excellent service we offer. To this end, I recently took the decision to work towards becoming industry certified. The most widely accepted certification for Medical Writers working in the field of publications is provided by the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP).

ISMPP’s certification programme offers an opportunity to earn the ‘Certified Medical Publication Professional™ (CMPP™)’ accreditation – a formal credential of expertise, integrity and excellence in the profession.

To be eligible to take the exam for ISMPP certification, I had to meet strict criteria that demonstrate considerable industry experience. Then, I had to sit a psychometrically validated examination on all aspects of professional medical publication planning. So, back to the ICE distinction between ‘Professional Certifications’ and ‘Assessment-Based Certificate Programmes’, and achieving the ISMPP CMPP™ certification can be shown to be demonstrating both mature experience in the industry, as well as a high and proficient level of knowledge.

According to the ISMPP CMPP™ website, their accreditation certifies the following:

  • “Expertise as a medical publication professional”
  • “Proficiency in good publication practices”
  • “Commitment to ethical and transparent data dissemination standards”
  • “Leadership in upholding and fostering integrity and excellence in medical publication”

 Deciding to pursue certification through ISMPP was a daunting experience punctuated with periods of self-doubt and worry that I wouldn’t pass. But the more I delved into the process and prepared for my examination, the more confident I started to feel. I realised that my experience in the industry has given me an incredibly strong basis to work through the accreditation process. Sure, there were elements of the content that I needed to learn or re-learn, but there are no short cuts for experience. Having worked within Medical Communications for over a decade, I was happy to fall back on what I had learned throughout the years and trust that I had earned the chance to achieve certification.

When the moment came that I learnt that I had passed, I was relieved, more than anything, but also excited about the opportunities that certification could afford to me. I’m looking forward to networking with other ISMPP members and CMPP™s, as well as participating in events where possible. My advice to other people considering whether to pursue certification would be to go for it! If you have the industry experience, you have earned your chance!

Find out more about our team and how they came to join the RubyDuke family by visiting our ‘who we are’ page!

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